28 Apr The Will From Hell
Dave was one of the nicest blokes I have ever met. I first met him while he was going through the divorce of his first wife, he just needed a hand with a few bits and pieces.
A few years later he remarried and became a proud father for the third time. I had never seen him happier, and deservedly so.
Not long after the birth of his third daughter he was in his office at work one morning when two blokes walked in and held him at gun point demanding the keys to the safe. Moments later he would draw his last breath.
What Becomes of the Broken Hearted
It’s almost impossible to comprehend how a family processes the immediate and harrowing loss of a husband and father in a situation like that. The grief I saw his family experience is a memory I would love to erase, but instead will probably endure for a lifetime.
Unfortunately, the grief, police investigations and protracted court cases surrounding his murder was not the end of all that was in front of them. The next challenge was dealing with the Will from hell.
Shortly after he married his second wife, Stacey, they bought a house and took out a sizeable mortgage which included covering the cost of some extensive renovations. Dave took out some life insurance valued at $100,000, although not enough to cover the cost of the mortgage if anything ever happened.
At around the same time, a friend gifted him a parcel of shares valued at $250,000 to help give him a leg up following the divorce of his first wife Jane. He got absolutely cleaned during his divorce so it was a nice touch. It was also testimony to the sort of guy he was and the regard he was held in by those who knew him. He was just a champion bloke.
When Greed Grows Arms
Dave’s Will basically stipulated that all assets and insurances were to be divided between Stacey and his three daughters. (He had two daughters from the first marriage).
His ex-wife Jane was not to get a crumb.
Problem was, his ex-wife was now in a defacto relationship with a bloke named Steve. Steve was a property developer and in a spot of trouble thanks to a property deal that had gone south. Steve was under a stack of pressure because he had borrowed money against the ex-wife’s house to help finance the deal.
By association with the ex-wife, Steve was now within arm’s reach of the money sitting in Dave’s estate, and because the ex-wife was in fear of losing her house, she pulled out all stops to get her paws on whatever money she could. And although she wasn’t entitled to any money, her under-aged daughters were and she was their guardian.
It was now gloves off and game on.
Meanwhile, all assets in the estate had been frozen for 2.5 years because of court cases, etc. This meant his second wife had to find a way to meet her own mortgage repayments while looking after their eighteen-month old daughter. And then when she wasn’t busy doing that, she had to find time to process the worst imaginable grief ever.
And while all this was happening, the value of the $250,000 share portfolio took a sizable dip due to a correction on the stock market.
In the mean time, things went from bad to worse for Steve’s property deal and the ex-wife became an overgrown thorn in everyone’s side. She needled everyone and challenged everything. Probate became a nightmare and eventually the estate landed in a family law court.
The family law court put all the assets and insurances into a ‘bucket’ but unfortunately most of the proceeds were slowly siphoned off in solicitor’s fees. The final balance was then divisible by all four beneficiaries of the estate, three daughters and his second wife. In the end, there was barely enough for his second wife to buy a second-hand car.
So How Could All This Have Been Avoided?
To be be totally honest, both Dave and his solicitor could have avoided this situation by doing the following:
I. The first thing Dave should have done when he remarried was update his Will and make sure it was water tight and almost impossible to contest.
II. Both he and his solicitor should have ensured his superannuation had a non-lapsing, non-discretionary death benefit nomination, especially since super is a ‘non-will’ asset.
III. His solicitor could have at least recommended a Testamentary Trust be written into the Will to protect the children’s benefits. For a solicitor to not at least suggest a Testamentary Trust for a blended family like Dave’s, is like going to the dentist without your teeth. You just don’t do it. A Testamentary Trust would have made it impossible for predators like his ex-wife (and her partner) to get their hands on any assets plus it would have made the estate more tax effective.
Families constantly change and evolve but sadly some people treat estate planning as if their family is immune to an untimely death. They also believe those who survive them, including their children and their spouses, never argue and therefore any division of assets will happen amicably when they pass away. They also believe greed, jealousy and family politics exist in every other family but their’s!
And then there are some families who find estate planning too confronting. Ironically, it is our experience the most well planned estates belong to blended families (except Dave’s!). We believe this is because parents who remarry don’t want their children to go through the same painful process of dividing assets they went through during their divorce(s).
Dave was one of the nicest blokes I have ever met, the sort of bloke who would have been given an express ticket straight to heaven. But if he could have seen the carnage that unfolded behind him, it would have felt like he just landed in hell.
Don’t let it happen to you.
Have a good weekend!
P.s. The names used in this Moowsletter are not the real names of the people involved. Also, I constantly made reference to the ‘ex-wife’ and ‘second wife’ instead of using their names because I figured it would be easier to follow. No disrespect intended to either.
Back paddock – a fine is a tax for doing wrong, a tax is a fine for doing well. Murphy’s law.